What keeps Orly running: Move, be active

Rogelio Constantino Medina - The Philippine Star
What keeps Orly running: Move, be active
At 73, former Sen. Orly Mercado maintains an active lifestyle and works out at least three times a week

MANILA, Philippines — A son of a public schoolteacher from Dagami, Leyte, veteran broadcaster-educator Orlando Mercado, or Orly as he is called, grew up near a railway station in Paco, Manila and worked as a casual laborer in Manila’s City Engineers Office with P4.66 salary.

A product of public school education, he was a diligent, working student. He worked as a DJ at night in a station owned by American TV producer Bob Stewart (now GMA 7) while he was studying during the day at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, where he finished AB Political Science (later he completed his MA Communication and Ph.D. Political Science degrees in the same university). 

He then transferred to ABS-CBN to head the Radyo Patrol team during pre-martial law days. He was imprisoned upon the declaration of martial law and was charged with subversion. 

In later years, after he was released from jail, he taught in several universities like UP, Ateneo and Maryknoll (where he served as a chair of its communication department) and returned to media in 1975 via GMA 7’s longest-running public service program Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko (he still hosts it every Saturday, from 5:30 a.m to 6 a.m.).

He appeared as a police reporter in a movie Hostage... Hanapin si Batuigas! (1977), starring Eddie Garcia, George Estregan, Susan Parker, Daria Ramirez and Roderick Paulate, directed by Manuel “Fyke” Cinco. He also did some TV hosting jobs, like GMA 7’s variety show Lunch Date (with Rico J. Puno, Toni Rose Gayda, Chiqui Hollmann), cooking program Lasang Pinoy, and morning program What’s Up (with Tina Monzon-Palma), among others.

When Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in 1983, he was back to rallying in the streets. He ran for Quezon City’s assemblyman in the 1984 election and he topped it. During the Cory Aquino administration, he became a senator and served for two terms. He was chair of the Senate Committee on Defense and Security for six years. Then he was chosen by former Pres. Joseph Estrada as the civilian defense secretary to have a sense of check and balance.

“Erap is a likable person. He is the type of guy who is solicitous. He is gracious, kind, courteous and compassionate. I saw him during the reunion of senators at Manila Hotel last year,” said Orly, who has four children (Sonny, Margo, Mahar and Renzo). He is married to his second wife, Dr. Susan Pineda-Mercado, former director at Division of Non-communicable Disease and Health through the Life-Course at World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific, former health undersecretary and chief of staff, and current special envoy of the President for Global Health Initiatives. Dr. Susan’s Nandito Ako advocacy will soon bring mental health awareness to the mainstream media and the general public.  

He also served as our ambassador to the ASEAN during the Arroyo administration. At present, he is the secretary-general of the 10-member countries Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration (EROPA) 2019 conference to be held in Manila on Sept. 22 – 27. Recently, he was in New York to attend a United Nations conference and was in Baku, Azerbaijan to give a lecture.

Moreover, he is an eminent fellow at the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP). He lectures at the Career Executive Service Board for career public officials. During weekends, he teaches some MBA students at the Land Bank of the Philippines and gives lectures at the Commanding General Staff College of the AFP at Camp Aguinaldo. 

He reads lots of books, especially biographies and fiction, and finds time to watch movies with his family.

At 73, he looks physically fit and feels young-at-heart. At 5’6”, he maintains his waistline at 32 inches. He goes to the gym at least three times a week. 

“You have to be intellectually active and you have to embrace one sport (he loves martial arts, especially arnis) that you enjoy. Have a social life. Do it for the rest of your life, but not to be competitive,” said Orly who hosts Early, All Ready radio program (with Cheryl Cosim), from 6 a.m to 8 a.m., Mondays to Fridays, on Radyo 5’s 92.3 news FM (one can watch it live at ONE PH of Cignal Cable Channel 6). 

He continued: “My wife Susy (who became Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko’s medical director) said that ‘sitting is the new smoking.’  Many of our physical problems are caused by inactivity — sitting for long hours. Your enemy is indeed inactivity, coupled with bad eating habits (instead of eating lots of vegetables and fruits). This is the formula for the deterioration of our health. What’s the antidote? You have to keep moving, you must have progressive resistance training.”

It is interesting to note that he never uses an elevator at TV 5 to go to a restroom at the upper floors of UP’s National College of Public Administration and Governance Building from his office on the first floor. 

But most of all, he concluded, it is important to give attention to one’s spiritual growth and to put life into one’s spirit by helping others without expecting anything in return.

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